Sprinkles Before Sweethearts
CHAPTER ONE DEAR ABBY
“Lunch is gross today,” I said, lifting a piece of limp iceberg lettuce and letting it drop to my plate. I sighed and rubbed my eyes.
“Why so cranky?” asked my bestie Sierra as she chomped on some dry-looking carrot sticks.
I sighed. “I stayed up too late last night watching the World Series. My team wasn’t in it, but I love postseason baseball, so my mom let me stay up. . . . Oh, oh, OH . . .” I yawned hugely, remembering to cover my mouth at the last second. “But then I couldn’t wake up this morning.”
“That’s why you were late to class this morning?” asked MacKenzie, my newer bestie. “Because of baseball?” Her bright red hair was pulled up in a high
ponytail, and it swung from side to side as she shook her head and faked her disapproval of me.
“Oh, shush!” I laughed and swatted at MacKenzie, who shrieked and ducked away from me. “The worst part is that I was rushing, so I forgot all this stuff I needed: my cross-country shorts, my idea notebook, my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. What a hassle!”
“You must have been in a rush if you forgot your idea notebook!” agreed Sierra. She tossed her curly brown hair over her shoulder and smiled at someone behind me. “Hey, girls!” she said.
I turned around to see Margie and Emilia, two girls from our grade, bearing down on our table. I liked them fine—we were in art and science together—but they weren’t my BFFs or anything.
“Mind if we join you?” asked Margie.
“Go for it,” I said, sweeping my arm toward the empty seats at the table.
“Thanks,” said Margie, setting down her tray with a smile of satisfaction.
“What’s new?” asked Sierra.
“Oh, just brainstorming about the midterm project we need to make for science,” said Margie, looking
at Emilia. Emilia nodded, but it seemed like there was something they weren’t saying.
Sierra put her head into her hands. “Projects are the worst! I’m all thumbs. I hate making them.”
I cleared my throat. “I love making them!” I said. It was true. I was all about crafts and DIY and would waaaay rather create a project than write a paper about something.
“What is your class’s assignment?” asked Sierra. We were in different physics sections, with different teachers.
“We have to make something that shows a concept or principle in physics. Mr. Franklin said our projects can’t just look good—they have to be meaningful and actually work. We have to submit our topic next week.”
Margie looked at me. “What are you going to do for yours?”
I shrugged. My fingers itched to start sketching in my idea notebook, but I didn’t have it today, of course. “I dunno. I’m not sure yet.” I wouldn’t have given out my ideas anyway, but I hadn’t actually had any inspiration yet.
Margie nodded like she was perfectly satisfied
with my non-answer, and then she leaned in close. “Well, we actually sat with you today, Tamiko, because we wanted your advice about something. Right, Emilia?”
Emilia nodded, looking down at her plate of yucky food.
“If it’s something about art class, I cannot help you there. Mr. Rivera—ugh! That man is a robot! I have no idea what he is looking for—” I began.
But Margie was shaking her head. “No. Actually, it’s about Carlo. Right, Meels?”
Emilia blushed dark red.
“Do you want me to explain?” Margie asked her. Emilia nodded shyly.
At this point I was getting annoyed. These two had sat down and taken over my conversation with my two pals, and then one of them couldn’t even speak for herself.
“What’s going on?” I pushed.
“Well,” said Margie, pausing dramatically and relishing the moment. “Emilia really likes Carlo. They danced together at the dance last weekend. And it wasn’t just a fast dance. They slow danced too! Then Carlo asked for her SuperSnap, but he hasn’t sent her
a single message since then. So we’re not really sure if he likes her or not.”
“Aww, that’s sweet,” Sierra said. “Why do you like Carlo?”
Emilia didn’t respond, so Margie elbowed her teasingly. “It’s his dark hair, beautiful eyes, and dazzling smile, right? Anyway, what do you think? What should we do, Tamiko?”
I looked up, surprised. “What? Me? I don’t have a clue. I barely know the guy. Why would he tell me if he had a crush on someone?”
Margie shook her head vehemently. “No, but what do you think? Like, what should Emilia do?”
I shrugged. This was so weird. Who am I, Dear Abby? “Um, ask him if he likes her?”
“Eeek!” Emilia squealed, blushing an even darker shade of red.
“No!” cried Margie. “You can’t just ask someone straight up like that. That’s way too direct. And what if he says yes just because he’s embarrassed? He’s kind of shy. Then that would set her off on the wrong course.”
I sighed. “I think if you want an answer from someone, you need to ask them a direct question. Why all the playing around?”
Emilia put her face in her hands and shook her head.
No one would mistake this girl for someone pushy, so I wasn’t sure what she was worried about.
Margie shook her head. “Never mind. We just thought you’d have some good advice, Tamiko, since you seem to be in the know.”
“In the know about what?” See, Margie? Ask a direct question if you want an answer from someone.
“You know . . . boy stuff,” Margie answered. “You’re cool and you have guy friends and you’re always wearing cute clothes, so I thought you’d know stuff about crushes.”
In the know? About guys? I had some good guy friends from the cross-country team, but I didn’t have a crush on any of them. And it was true that I loved dressing fashionably, but that’s always been for me?—I wasn’t dressing to impress anyone.
I blew my bangs up from my forehead in exasperation. “Just because I have fashion sense and can talk to anyone doesn’t mean I know anything about crushes.”
“Oh well,” Margie said. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if Carlo sends her a SuperSnap. Or
gives some other sign that he likes Emilia.”
“Good luck,” said MacKenzie.
Emilia nodded. “Thanks for listening,” she added shyly.
We wrapped up lunch, and then Margie and Emilia left to go track down poor Carlo somewhere near the lockers.
MacKenzie, Sierra, and I stood and went to clear our trays.
“That was weird,” I said, still puzzled.
“Beautiful eyes? Dazzling smile? Carlo?” Sierra said, and giggled.
“Wasn’t it funny how it’s Emilia who has the crush, but Margie did all the talking?” said MacKenzie.
Sierra nodded. “Emilia’s obviously really shy, though. Poor girl. It takes a lot of courage to admit you like someone.”
Even so, I couldn’t imagine being in such a state that my friends would have to do all the talking for me. I was no love expert, but I knew that it was better to speak for yourself in any situation, thank you very much!
I was excited to get home after school and grab my idea notebook. I always had an idea notebook going—there was a whole shelf in my craft room filled to bursting with my used notebooks. I packed them with sketches of projects or crafts I was working on; pictures ripped from catalogs, magazines, or newspapers; ideas for ways to customize things I already had, like clothing or furniture; inspiration for my part-time job at my bestie Allie’s mom’s ice cream parlor, Molly’s Ice Cream; and basically anything creative in my life. It’s where I really let myself go. Being without it today had been like missing a limb.
I pounced on it in my room and slipped the clipped pen off the cover to chew on. I had to pen-chew when I thought. It drove my mom crazy because she always thought I was going to chip my tooth. Hadn’t happened yet!
The science project was what had my wheels turning. It had to illustrate some simple physics concepts, like force, motion, and velocity. My mom had recently brought home a bunch of spools of colorful wire from one of the labs at the college where she works, and I’d been dying to
use them. Now I thought I could put them to use for this project. But how? With my idea due next week, I had time to come up with something really cool.
I put my pen to paper and let it roam freely while I thought about other stuff. I doodled hearts as I wondered why everyone was suddenly talking about crushes. I mean, come on, we were only in seventh grade! I doodled ice cream sandwiches as I thought about how much fun we’d had selling this new concoction at Molly’s the day before. I doodled Roman gladiator shields as I thought about my history homework—and then my phone rang.
It was Allie herself, calling on a video chat.
“Hey!” I cried, accepting the call and grinning at Allie. I could see she was staying at her dad’s that night. She and her brother alternated staying with their mom and dad. There were pluses to both locations. Her dad’s new apartment had a rooftop pool, for one thing!
“Hey! Hang on while I add Sierra.”
Then we were all three together. “Besties!” I said.
Ever since Allie’s parents had gotten divorced and she’d had to move to a new school, the three
of us had made an effort to stay close. We worked together at Molly’s Ice Cream shop every Sunday, where we called ourselves the Sprinkle Sundays sisters or the Sprinkle Squad. We video-chatted at least once a day, and we tried to plan one fun thing together every week. Sometimes we missed one of these things, but we tried to keep that from happening. Otherwise we missed one another. Even though I still saw Sierra every day, it was different when it was the three of us.
“Hiiiiii!” Allie cried.
Allie asked me about the World Series (she was very supportive of my hobbies and interests, even though she could not care less about baseball), and after I filled her in, the talk turned to the two school dances she’d just attended—ours at MLK, where Allie used to go to school; and the one at Vista Green, which was her new school.
“So, Allie, can we talk about the elephant in the room?” Sierra asked.
“What are you talking about?” Allie answered.
“Colin, duh!” Sierra squealed. “He was in all of your SuperSnaps from the Vista Green dance! Anything up with that?”
Colin was one of Allie’s new friends. He was the assistant editor of the school paper at Vista Green, and he’d asked her to write a weekly book review, with an ice cream recommendation to pair with each book. He was also a repeat customer at Molly’s. Every time he showed up, Allie was really glad to see him. And since he kept showing up, I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, he was pretty glad to see her, too.
“I don’t know,” Allie admitted. “My other friends think he likes me, but I think he’s just being nice.”
I groaned inwardly as Sierra continued to grill Allie about Colin and whether they had danced together. After a while I began to zone out. I picked up my sketchbook and started drawing daggers into every heart I’d already drawn.
The only problem with video chats was, people could tell when you weren’t paying attention!
“Miko?” Allie said, using my nickname. “Is this boring?”
I rolled my eyes. “It’s just that everyone likes someone else! I don’t get what the whole deal is. Why is everyone suddenly crushing?”
“I’m not crushing,” Allie said. “At least, I don’t think I am.”
“Well, it’s all everyone talks about! At lunch it was Emilia and Carlo, and now it’s this stuff about Colin. It’s like . . . something’s in the water. I just don’t get it!”
“You mean you’ve never even looked at someone at school and thought they were cute? Or wondered what it would be like to go on a date with them?” Sierra’s dark eyebrows were knitted close together, like she was puzzled by this.
“No! Who would I even feel that way about?”
Sierra’s eyes roamed around, like she was searching the ceiling of her bedroom for an answer.
“Never mind,” said Allie. “I need to go start my homework before my dad gets home. Don’t worry about it, Tamiko. You don’t need to like anyone now . . . or even ever! You’ll always have friends who love you.”
“So when I’m old and alone, you’ll still be my friends?” I joked.
“Especially then!” said Allie. “I’ll come see you with my walker!”
We all started to giggle.
“Even when I have no teeth!” Sierra howled.
“Gross!” I said, but I was laughing.
“Well, I’ll still be able to eat ice cream!”
“Gotta go! Byeeeee!” said Allie, and the call ended.
I smiled. Sprinkle Sundays sisters forever!